Boxed cereal was a huge deal when I was a child.  Apple Jacks, Sugar Smacks…anything that would turn our bowl of milk into a sweet treat.  My siblings and I used to fight over the latest addition to our kitchen cupboard after Mom’s return from the grocery store.  If I planned things right by getting out of bed first in the morning, I’d sneak down and crack open a delightful box. The trick was always getting that stubborn plastic bag open without spilling its contents or creating noise that would wake my siblings.  That visual seems similar to how I deal with my feelings. Careful. Calculated. Worried about drawing attention to myself.

Recently I had the privilege of attending a wedding ceremony for two people I genuinely love.  I was elated to be celebrating with them, not elated that it was at a wedding ceremony. I’ve become anti-wedding, I guess.  Recently divorced, I still carry bitterness, anger and disappointment with me regularly. I’ve attempted to process those feelings and the over-used action item of “letting it go”.  It’s not easy but I thought I had made progress until the first note hit my ears and the bridal party began their walk down the aisle. “Somewhere over the rainbow” caused me to catch my breath.  In an instant, I was violently ripping open that bag of cereal, pausing only to watch my past hopes, dreams and feelings come spilling out everywhere.

The days following, I seriously could not clean up the mess.  I tried. I knew that’s what I was supposed to do, conditioned to do but, why?  I’m at the point in life where carefully concealing my thoughts and feelings doesn’t work for me any more.  No longer can I pretend or hide for the sake of someone else. No longer can I dismiss what bothers me. I am finally in a state of awareness that I’ve never been in before.  If I attempt to push a thought or concern away, it finds me in the depths of the night, exhausted but unable to sleep. It can also haunt me in plain daylight, while at work, unable to focus.  I must, absolutely must, process my thoughts even if that means nothing more than meditation, journaling and praying. Other days it means confrontation. Self-love isn’t just caring for our physical bodies or taking time to do the things we enjoy.  Self-love is about recognizing the obstacles that are preventing us from experiencing true joy and then addressing the issues we can control.

Often times, I’ve said during a conversation, “I need to talk about something that’s bothering me”.  

The first time I said that sentence, was extremely hard but it’s gotten much easier. A conversation can be just that, a conversation.  It doesn’t need to be hostile or defensive.

I’ve found that simply saying, “I am feeling________” is all I need to get the dialogue flowing and those feelings out in the open rather than a chaotic, spilled, untimely mess.

Written by contributor writer Tammy Claramunt